September 2019 Highlights - Suffering & Happiness
View this email in your browser

Suffering and Happiness

de11bb77-3306-4f7e-a3ef-b2c47fbc2bdc.jpgWe tend to think that if we just stop the suffering, we will be happy. This is not so. To stop suffering is to be beyond happiness and unhappiness. It’s to be with this world just as it is in all its joy, pain, boredom, and general messiness.

Before we go further into our exploration of the cessation of suffering and its result, let’s be clear about what we mean by suffering. When we think about suffering, what usually comes up is “pain,” “sorrow,” or “grief.” We think of suffering because of physical pain. We suffer from the discomfort of illness. Suffering is sorrow, lamentation. This is a bit different from what the Buddha meant by suffering, though. Dukkha, the Pali word we translate as suffering revolves around a sense of dissatisfaction, insufficiency or unsatisfactoriness. Dukkha is what happens when we distinguish between “myself” and the rest of reality, and our focus becomes self.

So, to stop suffering is to let go of our tendency to make our self the center of everything and to be distressed when things don’t go our way. When we do this, we get beyond happiness and unhappiness to clarity, focus, flexibility. To be clear about the reality in front of us is to meet our life with nothing in between. There is no happiness or unhappiness, only meeting. We are totally engrossed in – totally there with – our situation. There is no “me” and “it.” There is only just this.

When we stop our suffering, creativity and flexibility arise. What does that mean? Perhaps someone with Alzheimer’s is wandering in their own world. If they are our loved one, we are constantly trying to bring them back to our world, the world where we are comfortable, the world in which they are the person we want them to be. We say, “No, grandmother, there are no fairies on the lawn. That’s your imagination. Pay attention to what I’m saying.” When we put aside suffering – what we want – we can enter their world. “Ah, fairies on the lawn. How wonderful! What do you think they’re doing there?” We really connect and there is wholeness. Sometimes, it’s harder. “Oh, grandfather, someone is trying to kill you. Who is it? How can I help you?” Again, there is connection and the sense of wholeness that comes from being taken seriously. Cessation of suffering means we go to dark places as well as delightful ones.

When we cease suffering, we cool down, too. The ancients called this “Nirvana.” It’s that cooling that brings the clarity. We stop thrashing around and the fire dies down, the smoke clears and we can see beyond our anxiety, uncertainty, and aversion. Reality steps forward and invites us into sanity. It reveals the shape of the situation and gradually we see a course forward. We see a step to take. We may not know if it’s right or wrong, and we may feel huge uncertainty, but we have the strength to take that step and hope that it works. If it doesn’t, we’re ready to branch out from there. There is no happiness – perhaps the path we see is filled with grief – but we do it because it’s what looks best in the reality of life right now. Or perhaps the path forward is just what we’d hoped for. However, we still take it because it’s what looks best in the reality of life, not because it will make us happy.

Emotion is part of this, too. We often think good Buddhists are not angry, grief-stricken, elated, or loving. Those feelings are part of being human and we are human beings. Without our vast rainbow of emotion we would not have the crucial tools for waking up and for being with others. How can we understand and help others if we do not feel emotional pain and emotional comfort? Also, there’s a piece of emotion that’s not about us. Grief can come from knowing that someone would be better if we were there, but we can’t be there and our heart hurts. Anger can come from seeing that we or others are being mistreated. We can feel these things while not injecting self into them. Then the reality of life becomes clear and we see a path ahead. It may not always be the best path but we can follow it creatively and flexibly. Beyond happiness and unhappiness. Just being here with this, right now.


September Highlights



September 15: All Day Sitting with Jisho Siebert

5:00 a.m. - 4:40 p.m.

All-day sittings are informal times of sitting together, and a chance to do a mini-retreat for a morning or spend an entire day sitting, walking, chanting and sharing food. Participants can come and go as their schedules allow. If you’re from out of town and need to stay overnight, there’s room at the center. Donations are welcome; there is no fee. A typical all-day sitting schedule is available here.



September 18: Introduction to Zazen

  7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

The Zen Center offers a one-evening introduction to Zen Buddhism and zazen. This includes a talk about Zen, zazen instruction, a short period of zazen and an opportunity for questions. Donations are welcome.






Coming in October




October 16: Introduction to Zazen

  7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

The Zen Center offers a one-evening introduction to Zen Buddhism and zazen. This includes a talk about Zen, zazen instruction, a short period of zazen and an opportunity for questions. Donations are welcome.






October 18 - 19: Sesshin with Shoryu Bradley

7:00 pm on Friday – 5:15 pm on Sunday


A sesshin is a silent zazen retreat, a chance to sink more deeply into Zen practice. The daily schedule includes zazen, sutra chanting (service), a dharma talk, and work. Meals are eaten silently in the formal style using oryoki bowls. Please register by March 10 if you plan to attend. Those who wish to stay overnight may sleep at the Zen center. Fees are $25 per day; $15 per 1/2 day. A typical sesshin schedule is available here .


Other Sitting & Sangha Opportunities


Bloomington-Normal, Illinois group meets at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings at Palms Together Yoga, 1717 R.T. Dunn Drive, Unit E in Bloomington. For more information, click here or contact them at

Des Moines - Daishin McCabe and Jisho Siebert lead half-day sittings from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of each month at Pure Land of Iowa – 8364 Hickman Road in Clive. For more information contact Daishin.

Weekly practice

9:00 a.m. Zazen
9:45 a.m. Dharma talk
10:30 - 11:15 a.m. Samu (working meditation)
11:15-11:45 a.m. Tea/Discussion

6:30 - 8:00 p.m. Monday Night Dharma

12:15 – 12:55 p.m. Zazen

6:30 – 6:50 p.m. Zazen
6:50 – 7:00 p.m. Kinhin
7:00 – 7:20 p.m. Zazen
7:20 – 7:30 p.m. Kinhin
7:30 – 8:00 p.m. Zazen

12:15 – 12:55 p.m. Zazen

6:30 – 7:10 p.m. Zazen
7:10 – 7:20 p.m Kinhin
7:20 – 8:00 p.m. Zazen

6:30 – 7:10 p.m. Zazen
7:10 – 7:20 p.m. Kinhin
7:20 – 8:00 p.m. Zazen

12:15 – 12:55 p.m. Zazen

Monthly practice

Third Wednesdays
7:30 – 9:00 p.m.  Introduction to Zazen and the Center

Second and fourth Thursdays
5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Baika

6:30 - 8:00 p.m. Dharma Study

Fourth Sunday
Sangha meeting (following dharma talk)
Click here for more information about Cedar Rapids Zen Center.
gray-facebook-48.png Share
gray-forwardtofriend-48.png Forward
Like us on Facebook
Copyright © 2019 Cedar Rapids Zen Center, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp